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Saturday, 21 November 2009

Beyond the Virtual?

Image:  A lone schoolboy sat on a pile of books looking at a laptop screen.'The loneliness of the long distance runner' came to mind as I first saw this article in eSN Today. The article by Christine Van Dusen raised the vision of the 'Home-Alone' learner - and soon expelled any thoughts that I might have had along these lines. She continues:

"This static, impersonal, anti-social school experience is the image that many parents, teachers, and school administrators continue to have in mind when they picture the world of online learning, even as more and more brick-and-mortar school districts explore full- or part-time virtual education. But this image is a flawed one, experts say. Not only are most online-education programs highly interactive, with students engaging in virtual discussions with teachers and their peers as they work on inquiry-based projects and activities, but often the learning takes place within—or is supplemented by—a traditional classroom experience."

Strong communication is key to effective online learning
In the same newsletter, Meris Stansbury comments on a new research paper (Sept 2009) by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. In particular, I liked her analysis of 11 points: 'Characteristics of successful online teachers.' I commend this article as a good checklist for those involved in on-line tutoring or even those considering such a career. I list the brief headings of each of her main paragraphs and suggest that you read, reflect upon and inwardly digest the full contents of her list:

  1. Meets the professional teaching standards....

  2. Has the prerequisite technology skills to teach online:

  3. Plans, designs, and incorporates strategies....

  4. Promotes success through regular feedback, prompt response, and clear expectations:

  5. Models and encourages legal, ethical, and safe online behaviour....

  6. Has experienced online learning from the perspective of a student,...

  7. Understands and is responsive to students with special needs....

  8. Creates and implements assessments in ways that ensure validity and reliability.

  9. Develops and delivers assessments, projects, and assignments that meet standards-based learning goals:

  10. Uses data to modify instruction and guide student learning:

  11. Collaborates with colleagues; networks with others involved in online education.

For me, yes, as you might guess, this is yet another area where I would claim that a professional level and yet user-friendly e-Portfolio system such as eFolio is the perfect solution for making Distance-, Virtual-, or Home-learning a successful and enjoyable expereince for all concerned, teachers, parents, learners and peers; to name but just a few!

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